How to Find Out if You Have Enough Tools


At every course I teach, I hear participants say, “I want more tools for my facilitation toolkit or meetings.” Even if you are an experienced facilitator, you may be surprised at what you learn in this article.

  • Do you know what type of tools you need?
  • Do you have enough of each type of tool?
  • Do you know when to use a particular tool?

What are Facilitation Tools?

NVC-picTools are exercises or single processes/activities every facilitator uses regardless of how they have been trained. Typically, we use tools to ensure a group is engaged and to solicit participant input (e.g., two commonly known tools are the five finger consensus tool and the dot voting tool).  Also, tools help the facilitator achieve certain things at a certain point in the intervention (i.e., making a decision, reaching agreement, resolving a conflict, etc.).

How many tools do you know and use well?

It’s time for some self-reflection!  Below we list 10 generic thinking processes and give you examples of specific tools within each generic category. This list was co-created with my colleague Ruth Nicholson of Nicholson Facilitation.  You can also download a hardcopy below and score your results.

This is not a perfect process category list nor a prefect categorization of the tools. Some tools repeat in some categories because they aid several thinking processes. Some I know who the author is, others I don’t.

I don’t necessarily agree with all the tools listed (Another subject all together). All those noted below generally give good results if:

  • you set the context well and note cautions
  • do it correctly
  • use it under right circumstances/timing

Facilitation Tools Checklist

Tools Assessment Cover 3-2015 600

Click the image to download a copy
of this assessment and find out how you score!

Do you have the tools needed for each thinking process?

Ask yourself, “Do I know and use well a few tools in each of the categories?”  I recommend that you know at least 2-3 tools within each of the 10 process categories.

Add any tools you already know but are not listed.

1.    Inviting Deep Dialogue and Surfacing Conflict

  • Focused Conversation (ICA*)
  •  Non Violent Communication (M. Rosenberg)
  •  Deliberative Dialogue
  •  Ladder of Inference (C. Argyris)
  •  Coaching Tool for Crucial Conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler)
  •  Round Robin or Structured Round

2.    Team-Building

  •  Herrmann Brain Dominance Diversity Game (N. Herrmann)
  •  Constructivist Listening (J. Weisglass)
  •  Team Responsibility Matrix
  •  Trust survey (C. Feltman)
  •  Get to Know You BINGO
  • Team Charter

3.    Analysis & Trend Identification

  •  Historical Scan/Journey Wall (ICA)
  •  The Wave Trend Analysis
  •  Environmental Scan
  •  Retrospective Review
  •  Mind Mapping (T. Buzan)
  •  Plus/Minus/Interesting (PMI) (de Bono)
  •  Flow Chart/Diagram

4.    Consensus-Building

  •  Gradients of Agreement Scale (S. Kaner)
  •  ToP Consensus Workshop Method (ICA)
  •  Five Finger Method
  •  Affinity Grouping Method
  •  Delineation (M. Wilkinson)

5.    Idea Generation

  •  Brainstorming
  •  ToP Consensus Workshop Method (ICA)
  •  Nominal Group Technique
  •  “What Is This?” (a warm up to “thinking outside the box”)
  •  Lateral Thinking Technique (de Bono)
  •  Stick ‘em Up (posting ideas on the wall) Brainstorming
  •  Reframing Problems into Opportunities
  •  Divergent and Convergent Thinking

6.    Planning

  •  SWOT Analysis
  •  Guided Visualization
  • Mission Statement Creation
  •  Goal Setting
  •  S.M.A.R.T. Objective Setting
  •  Force Field Analysis
  •  Priority Setting – can use dot (multi) voting or decision matrix for this

7.    Organizational or Team Assessment

  •  Organizational Development Journey Map (ICA)
  •  Herrmann Brain Dominance Team Assessment (N. Herrmann)
  •  Wilder Nonprofit Life Stage Assessment (J. Sharken Simon)
  •  Drucker Foundation Self- Assessment Tool (P.F. Druker)
  •  Team Dysfunction Assessment (P. Lencioni)

8.    Decision-Making

  •  Dot or Multi-Voting
  •  Decision Grid Matrix/Criteria Diagram
  •  Consensus Decision Making (S. Kaner)
  •  Harvard Business Review of Decision-Making
  •  Decision Tree

9.    Problem-Solving

  • Fishbone Diagram
  • Six Thinking Hats (de Bono)
  • 5 Ordered Steps of Problem Solving
  • Contradictions Workshop (ICA)
  • The 5 Why’s Pairs Exercise
  • Force Field Analysis
  • Reconciling Differences (F. Trompenar; Hampden-Turner)
  • Metamorphic Sculpture Exercise (B. MacKay)
  • Mind Mapping (T. Buzan)

10. Building Common Ground

  • Setting Group Norms/Rules/Guidelines
  • Hall-Tonna Values Inventory Exercise
  • Mission/Purpose/Vision/Values Statement Creation
  • Guiding Principles Creation
  • Story, Song Symbol Workshop (ICA)
  • Cognitive (Values) Mapping (Ackermann, Eden and Brown)
  • Team Charter

Do you know when to use a particular tool?

criteriaA description of most of these tools can be found by doing an internet web search.  If you cannot find a specific term and are curious about it, please email me and I’ll give you a specific reference.

We’ve also given you direct links, where applicable, to our product page where you can purchase a low cost PDF tools module that provides a complete description of the what, why and how of many of the tools listed. Each module provides step-by-step instructions on how to use the tool, scenarios of how we’ve used is, supplies you need and additional resources.

*Institute of Cultural Affairs developed the Technology of Participation (ToP® suite of tools in USA; In Canada –


Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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